You are playing with the neighbor girl Sharon, whose parents are pack- rats, so you always have to play outside. You would prefer to be inside, posing your dolls or doing a puzzle, activities that have a beginning and an end. You have already collected ants in gum wrappers and taken turns braiding each other’s hair when the neighbor boy, Tom, starts playing basketball in his driveway. Sharon has a crush on him and isn’t shy, so you follow her when she challenges him to a game of Pig. Every time you handle any ball, the texture and size of it feels foreign in your small hands. You think it’s because you don’t have a dad who plays catch with you. Tom goes first while Sharon plays with her braid. He misses and so does Sharon. You toss the ball into the air and turn around before you know if it went in, but then both Sharon and Tom reluctantly say “P,” and Sharon glares at you while Tom smiles so his dimples show and says “Good job.” You blush and shrug at Sharon, and she rolls her eyes. You miss the next time and the next, and pretty soon Tom wins. Tom says he has to go inside for dinner and you see his mom in the kitchen chopping vegetables, his younger brother watching television on the couch, and his dad reading the newspaper. Tom’s house is the nicest on the block, brick and two stories. His dad’s a professor at the college where your mom’s a secretary, and you’re just starting to realize why that matters. You wave goodbye to Sharon and cross the street, suddenly ready for bed even though it’s still light outside.

Christina Clarkson works in higher education in Minneapolis. She can be found online at